Innovation to deliver clean water for all: the digital legacy of TWENTY65

New digital presence highlights how research from TWENTY65, led by Professor Joby Boxall and Professor Vanessa Speight from the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, has helped change the health and sustainability of future water systems.

TWENTY65 icons

A new digital review of TWENTY65’s legacy, looking across the water cycle from source to tap and back again, has been created. Documenting how water infrastructure works together alongside findings from across the past five years of multidisciplinary water engineering research.  

TWENTY65 was a consortium of six leading UK universities, including the University of Sheffield, formed to conduct multidisciplinary research that delivers sustainable and resilient clean water for all. It has gone on to produce outcomes that have helped "ensure that our future water systems are efficient, sustainable and improve our health."

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), TWENTY65 worked in partnership across the water sector to tailor water systems so that they positively impact health, the environment, the economy and society.

Principal Investigator and Technical Director of TWENTY65, Professor Joby Boxall explains how the “unprecedented opportunity” that funding provided allowed TWENTY65 “to take a deep, cross disciplinary, dive into the big issues and challenges facing the water sector.”

“The scale of activity was able to drive forward transformative visions that positively challenged the status quo.” He added.

About TWENTY65

TWENTY65 Hub animation, explaining the purpose behind the project.

Water is the foundation of society. It sustains life, fuels agriculture and food production, supports our economy, and is crucial to the natural environment.

How do we build resilience, efficiency and adaptability into our systems, networks and catchments to ensure we all receive clean water, sustainably, by the year 2065?

From 2016 to 2021, TWENTY65, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC),  worked in partnership across the water sector to tailor water systems so that they positively impact health, the environment, the economy and society.

The consortium’s research fed into government consultations across multiple issues including water efficiency, reforms to the planning system, catchment partnerships and management, and innovation in the water sector.  

The TWENTY65 Water Innovation Hub facilitated bespoke workshops across the water regulatory sector for bodies such as Ofwat and the Environment Agency, with significant input provided to policy and initiatives such as the Ofwat Innovation Fund. 

“A critical outcome for TWENTY65 was bringing all the different and diverse stakeholders of the water sector together” said Professor Vanessa Speight, Managing Director of TWENTY65, “Our work has helped to spur a new enthusiasm for innovation in the UK water sector”.

One key finding is that social and technical innovations which can work together in different combinations, are essential: there is no silver bullet solution to the sustainable water challenges. This thinking has culminated in a roadmap of how different drivers might lead to different water system configurations along a continuum of centralised to decentralised scenarios. 

The research conducted by the TWENTY65 consortium will help to ensure that our future water systems are efficient, sustainable and improve our health.

Jane Nicholson

Director for Research Base at EPSRC

She added, “The consortium is an excellent demonstration of how multidisciplinary research across a wide range of partners can foster greater collaboration and deliver impact to sectors of key importance to the UK.”

The work of the TWENTY65 consortium showcases the cutting-edge research taking place on water engineering at the University of Sheffield, with related research by Professor Joby Boxall and Dr Stewart Husband recently highlighted in the Research Excellence Framework 2021 results.

Follow-on projects, such as Pipebots, which aims to revolutionise buried pipe infrastructure management, further highlight the continued impact of TWENTY65 five years on from its inception.

Our league table rankings

Top 100 Civil & Structural Engineering department in the world and 9th in the UK according to the QS World University rankings by subject (2023).

8th in the UK according to the Complete University Guide (2023).

10th in the UK according to the Times University League Table (2023).

Flagship institutes

The University’s four flagship institutes bring together our key strengths to tackle global issues, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions.